Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era

By Lauren Kessler

Communists vilified her as a raging neurotic. Leftists brushed off her as a stressed idealist. Her relatives pitied her as an exploited lover. a few stated she was once a traitor, a stooge, a mercenary, and a grandstander. To others she was once a real American heroine -- fearless, principled, daring, and resolute. Congressional committees enjoyed her. The FBI hailed her as an avenging angel. The Catholics embraced her. however the truth is, greater than a part century after she captured the headlines because the "Red undercover agent Queen," Elizabeth Bentley is still a mystery.

New England-born, conservatively raised, and Vassar-educated, Bentley was once groomed for a quiet existence, a small lifestyles, which she explored in short within the Nineteen Twenties as a instructor, teaching well-heeled younger women at the fantastic thing about Romance languages at an East Coast boarding university. yet in her mid-twenties she rejected either prior and destiny and set herself on a wholly new direction. within the Thirties she embraced communism and fell in love with an undercover KGB agent who initiated her into the area of espionage. by the point the United States plunged into global battle II, Elizabeth Bentley used to be directing the operations of the 2 greatest undercover agent earrings in the USA. finally, she had 80 humans in her mystery gear, 1/2 them staff of the government. Her assets have been in every single place: within the departments of Treasury and trade, in New Deal enterprises, within the top-secret OSS (the precursor to the CIA), on congressional committees, even within the Oval Office.

When she defected in 1945 and instructed her tale -- first to the FBI after which at a sequence of public hearings and trials -- she used to be catapulted to tabloid reputation because the "Red secret agent Queen," ushering in, virtually single-handedly, the McCarthy period. She used to be the government's celebrity witness, the FBI's most crucial informer, and the darling of the Catholic anticommunist flow. Her disclosures and accusations positioned a halt to Russian spying for years and helped to set the tone of yank postwar political life.

But who used to be she? a wise, self sustaining girl who made her offerings freely, correct and unsuitable, and had the power of personality to work out them via? Or was once she used and manipulated by way of others?

Clever Girl is the definitive biography of a conflicted American lady and her debatable legacy. Set opposed to the backdrop of the political drama that outlined mid-twentieth century the United States, it explores the undercover agent case whose explosive family and international coverage repercussions were debated for many years yet no longer absolutely printed -- until eventually now.

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She used to be, so far as they have been involved, on name completely. In January of 1952, she was once requested to testify sooner than HUAC for the fourth time. The congressmen have been then engaging in hearings on “the function of the Communist press within the Communist conspiracy,” focusing that month on a girl named Grace Granich, an American communist who ran a world information supplier in manhattan throughout the conflict years. Allegedly, the company were utilized by the day-by-day employee and the get together to acquire occasion info and directives from Moscow. because it became out, Bentley had by no means met and knew little or no approximately Granich. yet she was once in a position to hyperlink her with the underground, attesting that Granich and Golos had labored jointly. It used to be Granich, she acknowledged, who prompt to Golos that Helen Tenney may perhaps make an invaluable addition to the gear. (Tenney later grew to become one in all Bentley’s resources within OSS. ) Her testimony that Tuesday morning in mid-January used to be rather short, however it was once transparent that it piqued the curiosity of the congressmen. They rushed into government consultation earlier than lunch to question her extra. subsequent, SISS referred to as on her providers as professional witness. nonetheless below Senator Pat McCarran’s competitive management, the subcommittee was once carrying on with its research of the Institute for Pacific family members. Bentley had formerly named a number of humans lively within the IPR who, she claimed, have been a part of her espionage gear. yet, as along with her different accusations, there has been no documentary evidence. it sounds as if afflicted by means of this—or probably reacting to feedback that careers, and lives, have been being ruined at the foundation of hearsay—the subcommittee used the hearings to show simply how tough it used to be to end up that anybody used to be or were a secret agent. “Miss Bentley,” requested the assistance for the committee, “while you have been an underground agent, was once there in life documentary facts of the truth that you have been such an agent? ” “No, other than in Moscow,” Bentley answered. “Did you're feeling that it used to be your online business to ensure there has been no such documentary facts? ” he requested. “Definitely,” she replied. “I took each attainable precaution. ” To hammer domestic the purpose, the tips additionally puzzled the previous director of the CIA. “Sir…what are you able to let us know of the possibility that an energetic underground agent should be confirmed to be such by way of documentary facts? ” “Well,” spoke back Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, “the merely means you'll ever turn out he used to be an agent by way of documentary proof is that he will be very stupid”—that is, silly sufficient to fail to smash facts of involvement in such actions. “It is usual perform in reference to all underground organisations to hunt to prevent documentation, is it no longer? ” requested the information. “It very certainly is,” spoke back the admiral. whereas this testimony was once surely true—a solid agent obscured his or her association, a great agent erased his or her tracks—it used to be additionally expedient. It created a chic loop in common sense: instead of weakening the case that somebody used to be fascinated about espionage, the absence of documentary proof really reinforced it.

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